PV InfoLink has compiled the 1H19 rankings of solar cell shipment volumes. According to figures in PV InfoLink’s database, Tongwei secured the top rank, Aiko Solar held the second, and Uniex took the third.
Throughout the first half of 2019, PERC cells maintained the popularity they had gained last year. The cells generated healthy profits over the six-month period, with products having been sold out. While cell giants Tongwei and Aiko Solar continued to expand, Runergy, Lu’an Solar, Sumin Energy, and Solar Space emerged with a noticeable increase in new production capacity online.
Tongwei, who claimed the top spot in the rankings, shipped as high as 6 GW of cells throughout the first half of the year. The company will continue to increase market share and dominant in terms of shipment volume in the second half and production expansion for 2020. As if not to be outshone, the runner-up Aiko Solar can produce up to 10 GW after gearing its Tianjin-based plant up for mass production. Moreover, as there are several GW-scale producers due to enter the market in the second half, price competition for PERC cells will become more fierce next year. It will be difficult to secure orders for cells next year, and for second-tier producers, whose manufacturing costs are higher, will struggle harder to survive.
Demand for cells has recently weakened. Yet, with large scale of new production capacity coming online, cell prices keep declining and have caused quite a few producers to fall below the break-even point. As much of the second half continues to see the capacity of PERC cells expanding, cell surpluses will likely occur in the supply chain next year, with lower cell prices becoming the order of the day. From last year to the first half of 2019, cell makers started raising the share of PERC production lines and adopted SE technology, leading to the end of the rapid cell efficiency growth. Manufacturers have now returned to the competition where low costs and product differentiation prevail. Therefore, winning more orders in a competitive market and generating more profits will be the major challenges facing cell makers.
Apart from installing new equipment for additional production capacities and lowering the cost per watt through increasing operational scale, the change of wafer size is a topic of broad interest. In addition to cells of standard sizes, mono- and multi-Si cell makers have to produce cells made from 158.75mm, 161.7mm, and 166mm wafers in response to module producers’ demand.
This year’s shipment volumes of modules using larger wafers will keep growing. Shipments of bifacial products to the U.S. are also expected to increase next year thanks to exclusion of bifacial modules from the Section 201 tariffs. Against this backdrop, companies with manufacturing facilities in the Southeast Asia who undertake overseas business mainly in the U.S. may increasingly modify production lines to make bifacial cells and modules. If the market adoption of bifacial modules increases in the U.S., the same trend will likely take place in other mature markets, thereby allowing shipments of bifacial cells to improve.
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